Google extends its ‘Google Station’ to Indonesia
Developing its presence within several markets, Google has set its sights on developing its services in Indonesia as part of its aggressive expansion strategy into southeast Asia.
Previously rolled out in India in 2015, its Google Station program has seen its public Wi-Fi service rolled out at public spaces, such as universities, bus stops and railway stations, enabling users to remain connected at low cost and gain access to vital services. With over 150 stations in India alone, Indonesia is hoping for the same success by adopting new technologies to support its citizens in a number of industries.
The country is looking to implement its services in hundreds of spaces across Java and Bali in a 12-month rolling project, targeting one of southeast Asia’s largest markets. The move will enable Google to work in competition with Facebook’s platform, where its Wi-Fi hotspots have now been implemented in both India and Indonesia.
In order to make the project a success, Google has also partnered with a number of local providers, venue owners and telecommunication companies to ensure its services are launched without delay. For example, the company has partnered with broadband provide FiberStar, as well as service provider CBN.
The tech giant has also launched its Assistant in Bahasa Indonesia, where local citizens are able to get answers from Google Assistant through the Allo messenger application. This focus has also extended into Google’s research into developing healthcare technologies, where the company has partnered with Mitra Keluarga hospitals to help support users in symptoms of Indonesia’s most prevalent health concerns.
Previously only available in India, Google has now launched its YouTube Go app, which enables users in the region to watch YouTube content despite poor connectivity in remote areas.
Additionally, Google has placed a significant focus on delivering a number of educational opportunities for users in the region. Its new app, Primer, will support entrepreneurs build products and create their own business, providing exceptional lessons in how to market its products, which has seen a surge in popularity. It has also developed a platform solely for female entrepreneurs in the region.
Business Review Asia Magazine - August issue
Chinese Firm Taigusys Launches Emotion-Recognition System
In a detailed investigative report, the Guardian reported that Chinese tech company Taigusys can now monitor facial expressions. The company claims that it can track fake smiles, chart genuine emotions, and help police curtail security threats. ‘Ordinary people here in China aren’t happy about this technology, but they have no choice. If the police say there have to be cameras in a community, people will just have to live with it’, said Chen Wei, company founder and chairman. ‘There’s always that demand, and we’re here to fulfil it’.
Who Will Use the Data?
As of right now, the emotion-recognition market is supposed to be worth US$36bn by 2023—which hints at rapid global adoption. Taigusys counts Huawei, China Mobile, China Unicom, and PetroChina among its 36 clients, but none of them has yet revealed if they’ve purchased the new AI. In addition, Taigusys will likely implement the technology in Chinese prisons, schools, and nursing homes.
It’s not likely that emotion-recognition AI will stay within the realm of private enterprise. President Xi Jinping has promoted ‘positive energy’ among citizens and intimated that negative expressions are no good for a healthy society. If the Chinese central government continues to gain control over private companies’ tech data, national officials could use emotional data for ideological purposes—and target ‘unhappy’ or ‘suspicious’ citizens.
How Does It Work?
Taigusys’s AI will track facial muscle movements, body motions, and other biometric data to infer how a person is feeling, collecting massive amounts of personal data for machine learning purposes. If an individual displays too much negative emotion, the platform can recommend him or her for what’s termed ‘emotional support’—and what may end up being much worse.
Can We Really Detect Human Emotions?
This is still up for debate, but many critics say no. Psychologists still debate whether human emotions can be separated into basic emotions such as fear, joy, and surprise across cultures or whether something more complex is at stake. Many claim that AI emotion-reading technology is not only unethical but inaccurate since facial expressions don’t necessarily indicate someone’s true emotional state.
In addition, Taigusys’s facial tracking system could promote racial bias. One of the company’s systems classes faces as ‘yellow, white, or black’; another distinguishes between Uyghur and Han Chinese; and sometimes, the technology picks up certain ethnic features better than others.
Is China the Only One?
Not a chance. Other countries have also tried to decode and use emotions. In 2007, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) launched a heavily contested training programme (SPOT) that taught airport personnel to monitor passengers for signs of stress, deception, and fear. But China as a nation rarely discusses bias, and as a result, its AI-based discrimination could be more dangerous.
‘That Chinese conceptions of race are going to be built into technology and exported to other parts of the world is troubling, particularly since there isn’t the kind of critical discourse [about racism and ethnicity in China] that we’re having in the United States’, said Shazeda Ahmed, an AI researcher at New York University (NYU).
Taigusys’s founder points out, on the other hand, that its system can help prevent tragic violence, citing a 2020 stabbing of 41 people in Guangxi Province. Yet top academics remain unconvinced. As Sandra Wachter, associate professor and senior research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, said: ‘[If this continues], we will see a clash with fundamental human rights, such as free expression and the right to privacy’.